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Rocky Mountaineer in the Colorado Rockies

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Palmland

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This was on today's Trains newswire;
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Canadian luxury train operator Rocky Mountaineer will launch a U.S. train in 2021. The “Rockies to the Red Rocks” service will be a two-day trip between Denver and Moab, Utah, with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colo. The company plans to launch the service with 40 departures in a 10-week period between Aug. 15 and Oct. 23, 2021, and is working with tourism organizations, hotels, and tour operators on packages that include tours, activities, and stays in Denver in Moab.
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Many of us thought it was just a matter of time until this happened. I guess this will be a summer time version of the Ski Train. Hopefully they will be using their equipment rather than Amtrak's. I wonder where the train will be turned and parked near Glenwood Springs. I don't recall a siding there and the old wye to Aspen has been removed. At $1250/pp for two days, I believe we'll continue to do it as 'independent travelers'.
 
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Seaboard92

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I believe they are using the train both days.

WB
Day 1: Denver-Glenwood Springs following the Zephyr out
Day 2: Glenwood Springs-Moab

EB
Day 1: Moab-Glenwood Springs
Day 2: Glenwood Springs-Denver just ahead of the Zephyr

There is actually a UP branch line down into Moab that looks to be in good condition. Which would definitely qualify as rare milage the AOE used to use it back in the day. For that rare milage branch line I would consider it.

I knew Rocky had this planned for 2020, but I was expecting them to wait till the pandemic ended to announce it.
 

Palmland

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Seaboard, after reading their website it sounds like you are correct! Rail both days to Moab with the first night in Glenwood Springs. I guess UP gave them the ok to sit on the siding at Glenwood Springs.

Now how do they get to Moab. My OGR shows no rail service. Maybe a bus from Grand Junction where they could service and turn the train? They also offer a 4 day round trip and an option to continue to Las Vegas.
 

Seaboard92

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There is a branch line from Crescent Junction, UT to just outside of Moab. Looks like the branch mostly serves a uranium mine. The track looks to be in incredible condition but that isn't surprising knowing that cargo. Appears to be active as well. On the satellite it appears to have a platform area, or a road right up at the end of the track.
 

Palmland

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Wow, thanks. This would be a great trip. We were camping on our visit to Arches and Canyonlands. Both were spectacular.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Can they use the stadler built double decker on this route, or only the single level trains?
 

Palmetto

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Can they use the stadler built double decker on this route, or only the single level trains?
I would say "yes", given that Superliners run on it. This service is Silver Leaf, though, which is usually a single level car with wrap-around windows, like VIA's Panorama cars, if you're familiar.
 

Seaboard92

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I would say "yes", given that Superliners run on it. This service is Silver Leaf, though, which is usually a single level car with wrap-around windows, like VIA's Panorama cars, if you're familiar.
I'm not a hundred percent sure on the Gold Leaf cars to be honest. A Superliner is 16'2", and the Colorado Railcar UltraDomes are 17'4" tall. So a full foot and two inches according to my records. Now they might be able to fit. That is going to be a doozy trying to deadhead down from Canada trying to avoid low clearances.

The Silver Leaf will clear without an issue which is a former CN CC&F Coach that they converted. Originally those cars were the Red Leaf service which was the cheapest service offered till they decided that they did not want to offer the basic coach accommodations any more. So they converted a large batch over to Silver Leaf and quietly discontinued the Red Leaf product.

This expansion feels a bit half baked though. It seams to me they are going to lose some customers because no one knows what Moab, Utah is unless you google it and find out its home of Arches National Park. But they aren't including any sort of transfer from Moab to the outside world. Moab has a few shuttles that go to the outside world ran by three companies Red Rock Express, Road Runner Shuttle, and Porcupine Shuttle (Grand Junction only). And honestly all three have really crappy websites that are either lacking details or horribly laid out.

Next problem I have with their operation is that they have now launched a product and want someone to place a $25 deposit with them to reserve a spot. That I have no problem with. But when I click on a tour to get more information it goes straight to the deposit page. It doesn't tell me what days they are running, or what amenities might be included, what Gold Leaf costs. If I am going to launch a product like this I would want to have as much as information ready prior to the launch. Now Rocky Mountaineer is lucky that they have very good brand awareness and is well known. But this new project of theirs still leaves me with more questions about what they are planning to operate.

It's not been a large secret that their ridership in Canada has gone down in recent years and I think that's because they have eliminated Red Leaf service which was the cheapest service. I believe it was eliminated in the guise of expanding the Silver Leaf product which was a mid tier product between Red and Gold Leaf.

Their main market is the retiree market which can be very price conscious so I would make the assumption that the cutting of Red Leaf might be the reason ridership has gone down. And for those who would travel Gold Leaf I don't see why you would pay that price. For $1,000 more per person you can ride the Royal Canadian Pacific which has half the capacity of one the Gold Leaf cars on the entire train vs. Rocky which runs up to four or five Gold Leaf coaches in a consist. Its a more personal experience on the exact same routes, still runs daytime only like Rocky, includes off train tours of the various National Parks and cities. They also run on far more scenic lines such as Crowsnest Pass. A far better train at just about the same price, with far better service.

Couple this with the fact the Canadian border will probably be closed for a significant part of next year so there won't be any Americans or foreigners riding the train that almost exclusively markets and accommodates to foreigners. Canadians don't tend to ride the service. The people who have ridden their trains with the money to re-ride I've heard don't want to keep riding the same routes which makes sense. They might be a business in trouble in a decade. So I think they needed to open the new service in order to survive, and it makes sense why they are expanding. But it appears to be only a half baked plan.

I think a better route for them would have been Seattle-Spokane-East Glacier Park. It's closer to their maintenance base, it is equally scenic, and Amtrak runs a significant chunk after dark. When you look at their trains in Canada VIA runs along the same route Jasper-Vancouver. But VIA runs over large portions of that overnight. So the only way to have it all in daylight is Rocky Mountaineer. And the fact they could connect the two trains by keeping the Coastal Passage open.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Thank you for looking up “Moab, Utah” and what connections are there, and even what is there. I too now wonder why this project has been released. The deposit is so small it does not seem to be a fund raising issue. When I read the story earlier, I was thinking of just stay at Moab and then take the next train back to Denver. They need to do more work on this project. Very much a idea/project and not yet a completed business venture.
 
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Seaboard92

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Here are some more interesting things a friend who was on the Travel Industry Q&A Zoom Meeting tonight (I'm registered for Mondays meeting) has said. The train will be Silver Leaf only because the Gold Leaf Cars can not clear some of the tunnels on the line. The first departure is going to be August 15th with the last being October 15th. In 2022 they plan on starting in April however.

Schedule

WestboundCityEastbound
9:00 AM Day 1Denver, CO5:00 PM
5:00 PM Day 1AR Glenwood Springs, CO DP9:00 AM
7:00 AM Day 2DP Glenwood Springs, CO AR7:00 PM
12:00 PM Day 2Moab, UT12:00 PM

The top speed will not exceed 40 mph and Union Pacific has guaranteed good on time percentage due to the low volume of freight traffic. It is a deal between Union Pacific and Rocky Mountaineer not Rocky Mountaineer and Amtrak.

The presenter said there would be a 15 minute transfer between the Moab station and hotels downtown which means they are indeed using the branch line. I will confirm this on Monday.

Two Classes of service SilverLeaf and SilverLeaf Plus. With 52 SilverLeaf Plus passengers and 156 to 208 SilverLeaf passengers (3-4 coaches). SilverLeaf Plus passengers also have access to a special lounge that is being renovated with lounge seating, large windows, and a bar. All in all the consist should be two Rocky Mountaineer locomotives, 4-5 coaches, a lounge, and a HEP car for a total train length of 6-7 cars. I wonder if they would like a conventional non ultra dome.

They hotels they are using in Denver and Glenwood Springs are within walking distance of the station, and no transfers to hotels are needed on that front.

They are currently working on airport transfers at Moab, and Denver transfers are either flat rate taxi or the RTD Airport Line.

But the best part of this is they are running with open vestibules.

I could definitely consider making a trip to Colorado to chase this train to be honest, and maybe even ride it just for the Moab branch. Plus I've always wanted to see Arches National Park.
 

Seaboard92

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I would say sometime in July you should see the equipment deadheading down from Kamloops where the maintenance base is. If I was guessing a routing it would be this.

Canadian National: Kamloops, BC-Vancouver, BC
BNSF: Vancouver, BC-Seattle, WA
Union Pacific: Seattle, WA-Portland, OR-Boise, ID-Salt Lake City, UT-Moab, UT-Denver, CO.

I think they will hit Moab on the way so they can get some marketing photos of the service on it's route for the website. Honestly I want to ride the deadhead down from Vancouver.
 

Siegmund

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I would say "yes", given that Superliners run on it. This service is Silver Leaf, though, which is usually a single level car with wrap-around windows, like VIA's Panorama cars, if you're familiar.
I'm not a hundred percent sure on the Gold Leaf cars to be honest. A Superliner is 16'2", and the Colorado Railcar UltraDomes are 17'4" tall. So a full foot and two inches according to my records. Now they might be able to fit. That is going to be a doozy trying to deadhead down from Canada trying to avoid low clearances.
Not too much of a doozy IMO.

A lot of trilevel auto racks and double-stack containers run over 18 feet and some are close to 20. You need lines that are Plate H (Plate F is enough for Superliners) but I would imagine that all or nearly all BNSF and UP main lines are good for it.

I would not swear to all of the ex-D&RGW being good for 20' but I imagine it is good for 17'4".
 

peteypablo

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I am very familiar with this line. Denver to Glenwood Springs is a well known part of the California Zephyr route that I have traveled dozens of times. I live south of Moab, so I drive past the Moab spur (we actually call it the Potash Spur) every time I travel north.

The Potash Spur was built to access the Texas Gulf Potash mine in the early 1960s. It runs from Crescent Junction south paralleling Highway 191 until Moab, where it enters a tunnel high on a red sandstone cliff above the Arches National Park entrance. From there it goes along the Colorado River until it arrives at the end of the track at the potash mine.

The area next to the tunnel has been turned into a loading area for containers of uranium mill tailings from the decommissioned Atlas Corporation uranium mill. Those tailings are being hauled to a depository between Crescent Junction and the old railroad stop of Thompson Springs. The track underwent significant maintenance and upgrade at least between Crescent Junction and this portal above Moab when they started hauling the tailings away.

I have thought for a long time that the Potash Spur was a great place for a tourist train. Moab has become a tourist destination that threatens to overwhelm existing transportation infrastructure. There has been a building spree for 30 years that has continued apace during 2020. I always thought the best place to start would be at the turnoff to Canyonlands National Park ten miles north of Moab. From there it climbs up the red rock cliffs to the tailings loading facility and the track from there to the potash mine along the Colorado offers some spectacular scenic views.

The Rocky Mountaineer has hit on a better way to exploit this scenic mileage by including it with the Denver to Glenwood part of the Zephyr route. I think this may be just the ticket. I do think they ought to offer a package that allows one to spend a few days in Moab. Summer is not the best time, however. Too hot.
 

tgstubbs1

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Moab is of course famous not only for its proximity to Arches NP but for mountain biking. I wonder if they will have bike racks available?

I would guess if there is some problem getting all the way to Moab they could detrain in Green River. Not quite a station but there's a Amtrak sign there and everything.
 
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peteypablo

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Going only to Green River makes this no different from riding the Zephyr, at least for me, and far more expensive. And the most scenic part of the Potash Spur is the trackage south of the Moab portal. I really hope they figure out a way to include that. The information they have given so far, unfortunately, suggests that the portal is the end of their journey.
 

peteypablo

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The track between the portal where they load the tailings and the true end of the line at now Intrepid Potash is about 7-8 miles long and includes the only tunnel not on the Zephyr route. There is a deep cut just south of the turnoff to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. I know this additional trackage is used because I have seen potash trains on this spur within the past six weeks.
 

tgstubbs1

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I remember reading that there was a movement by some Salt Lake rail line enthusiasts to start a run from there to Moab. They planned on using some of those lines that serviced the mining operations.

So I would guess that is a possibility, although they haven't succeeded in establishing the service.
 

peteypablo

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One of the problems with Salt Lake City to Moab is that there isn’t a wye at Crescent Junction, but just a turn towards Denver. A wye isn’t essential, of course, but it would mean running backwards or running the engine around the train.
 

tgstubbs1

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One of the problems with Salt Lake City to Moab is that there isn’t a wye at Crescent Junction, but just a turn towards Denver. A wye isn’t essential, of course, but it would mean running backwards or running the engine around the train.
I see. But Moab to Denver might be ok?
 

Brian Battuello

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I've been taking that route since it was the real California Zephyr. I was 13 years old, and we didn't know it was the last year of operation. I actually recall meeting a Zephyette. I took the DRG Zephyr maybe 3 times and the Amtrak CZ maybe 12 times. Given what I've spent so far, probably wouldn't kill me to pay for a luxury version once.

I've been intrigued by the Mountaineer concept of putting all their effort into the daytime and meal experience, and not bothering with onboard sleeping. As nice as a train bedroom is, it can't compete with an upscale hotel for comfort. And you eliminate the day vs night viewing issue.

Put myself on their mailing list...
 

Brian Battuello

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And off again. I was curious about the different classes of service, so went to Trip Advisor to read some reviews. I was very surprised to find hundreds of one star reviews after the Rocky Mountaineer company decided to cancel service this past summer (for obvious reasons) but refused to refund thousands of deposits and payments in full. They offered future credits, but gave passengers only a year to use them.

To me, if a company decides, for whatever reason, to not provide a service, they must refund any amounts paid for it. I will not trust the Rocky Mountaineer company with any of my money until all previous customers are paid in cash in full.
 

tgstubbs1

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And off again. I was curious about the different classes of service, so went to Trip Advisor to read some reviews. I was very surprised to find hundreds of one star reviews after the Rocky Mountaineer company decided to cancel service this past summer (for obvious reasons) but refused to refund thousands of deposits and payments in full. They offered future credits, but gave passengers only a year to use them.

To me, if a company decides, for whatever reason, to not provide a service, they must refund any amounts paid for it. I will not trust the Rocky Mountaineer company with any of my money until all previous customers are paid in cash in full.
Hmm. That is too bad. It seems like a good idea. I hope Amtrak resumes the Denver to Winter Park train when the virus is 'tamed'. They probably will.
Maybe they could run a train to Moab. I bet it could become popular, too.
 

jiml

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And off again. I was curious about the different classes of service, so went to Trip Advisor to read some reviews. I was very surprised to find hundreds of one star reviews after the Rocky Mountaineer company decided to cancel service this past summer (for obvious reasons) but refused to refund thousands of deposits and payments in full. They offered future credits, but gave passengers only a year to use them.

To me, if a company decides, for whatever reason, to not provide a service, they must refund any amounts paid for it. I will not trust the Rocky Mountaineer company with any of my money until all previous customers are paid in cash in full.
The problem is they are a Canadian company and the federal government here did not compel travel providers to give refunds due to pandemic cancellations, unlike other countries. A voucher for future travel was deemed sufficient. We had travel booked on American Airlines and received a prompt and complete refund. My sister was booked on Air Canada and received a voucher. It is still a contentious issue now as the airlines seek a further government bailout - the government has made refunds a condition of more help. It unlikely that a niche service like RM would receive any bailout money.

I should point out that VIA Rail did provide refunds without government prompting, although there were conditions specific to the type and complexity of tickets. Rocky Mountaineer should have followed their example, but probably did not have the resources to do so.
 

Bob Dylan

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The problem is they are a Canadian company and the federal government here did not compel travel providers to give refunds due to pandemic cancellations, unlike other countries. A voucher for future travel was deemed sufficient. We had travel booked on American Airlines and received a prompt and complete refund. My sister was booked on Air Canada and received a voucher. It is still a contentious issue now as the airlines seek a further government bailout - the government has made refunds a condition of more help. It unlikely that a niche service like RM would receive any bailout money.

I should point out that VIA Rail did provide refunds without government prompting, although there were conditions specific to the type and complexity of tickets. Rocky Mountaineer should have followed their example, but probably did not have the resources to do so.
If they took your money, they should have the resources to refund it!!
 

Brian Battuello

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Thanks for the explanation about Canadian policies. I would have hoped that deposits and payments in full would be at least put into a separate accounting bucket. They are not earned funds and should not be used for other expenses. When a service is not provided, the funds should be immediately returned in the form of payment. The idea that customer's useless deposits are used to pay the senior management's salaries while the trains sit unused is revolting.

jiml slipped in with a much more succinct comment. I can think of an even shorter one, but they won't let me print it.

In any case, not a penny to RM until all existing customers are refunded. What a waste of goodwill.
 
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